Whitetail Golf Resort (Mercersburg, PA on 07/18/15)

I stopped to get some water and headed over to Whitetail. My morning round took longer than expected, so I couldn’t stop for long. I pulled into a packed parking lot a few minutes before my 3:30pm tee time. When booking my time, I only saw tee times after 2pm available so I wasn’t too surprised to find out that a tournament was held in the morning. Everyone started clearing out though as I got my cart and rolled a couple putts. I followed a twosome around the front and a single tailed me. Apparently they only played nine holes and I caught up with another group on the back nine. It took about 4 hours to play which is fine with me.

Whitetail is only about 10 miles away from where I played in the morning, but it felt like it was in another world! The course is part of a four resort that offers snow sports during the winter and other outdoor activities. The only thing I checked out was the golf course, but no matter the activity, the setting is stunning. I’m not positive, but I think the resort is located at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. The resort is at the base of a mountain range which rings around it. Most of the course is located in a meadow with great views of the area!

The scenery wasn’t the only thing that was spectacular. The maintenance was top-notch too! The course was very green and lush. The tees were full and so were the fairways. I was always rewarded after hitting a fairway. The smooth greens were speedy and I just tried to lag all my putts to the front edge of the cup. Because of the tournament there were some footprints around the cups, but that could be expected. The rough was cut down so I could advance it with even a mid-iron. When it comes to conditions, I’d love to be in a financial position someday so I could play a course like this one all the time! My twilight round was $45, but the conditions were reflective of something in the $75 range.

Rick Robbins designed the course and this was the fourth course of his that I’ve played. I don’t recall anything about the first two and I liked the third one that I played. Unfortunately, and in my opinion, this design left a lot to be desired. After some thought though, it doesn’t seem that Robbins was given an A+ piece of land to design a golf course.

Most of course is located at the bottom of a mountain in what seemed like a low area. The holes are parallel so there is a lot of back and forth. In fact, 16 out of the 18 holes run north/south. A creek cuts through the property and some ponds come into play. A few holes on the back nine play up into the wooded hillside and they are pure target golf! All that meant multiple fairways ran out into trouble and I counted maybe a dozen forced carries at Whitetail. I’m not a long hitter, but I was worried about running some drives through the fairway if my ball got a big bounce when it landed. It will probably be a lot of layups for the bigger hitters even if they play the black tees. That’s where I played from and the numbers for the blacks are 74.3/137/6950.

If all the forced carries aren’t tough enough then don’t worry, because the greens are treacherous! I cannot begin to describe all the different spines, tiers, and mounds in them. There are nine different pin locations on each green, so that might give you some idea of what to expect. My golf brain just shutoff because it couldn’t handle trying to die every chip and long putt at the top of a high point to let it trickle towards the hole. A shot just a little off could catch a ridge and end up 30 feet away. Trying to get to some of the tiers required landing the ball on a bath towel sized area from 150 yards. Collectively, the greens were a bit much for me.

If driving by on I-81 and looking for a place to play I’d still recommend Whitetail. Yes, there are poorly designed holes and yes, it isn’t the most player friendly course. However, the course was in brilliant shape and the area had a certain charm about it, probably because of the scenery. I was only on the resort property for 5 hours, but it felt like I was on vacation!

#1 (407 yard par 4):

The 1st hole at Whitetail is a pleasant one. It is a gentle dogleg left with some bunkers that come into play off the tee. Hitting driver or laying back are both options and straight shots aren’t needed to begin the day. If someone wants the best angle into the green then they are probably going to have to challenge the right bunkers. The green is wide with a couple tiers that step down from the higher left side to the lower right side. That left flag looked like the toughest one possible!

1-1 1-2 1-3

#2 (423 yard par 4):

The 2nd could be the most mentally involved hole on the front nine. It plays to a blind fairway that runs out up near that bunker and there is lost ball trouble to the right. The downhill approach is all carry and plays over the trouble to the right. The tee shot with a 3 wood down the right side of the fairway can leave the same distance on the second shot as a driver down the left side. Don’t go left on the second shot because the ball could get a poor bounce.

2-1 2-2

#3 (193 yard par 3):

The 3rd is a long par 3 that plays even longer because it is uphill. I hit an extra club and that was a good choice. The green angles from front left to back right and you may not find the ball missing to the right of the bunkers. I like that the bunkers are on the low side of the hole to catch shots and that it is open to the left of the green. There is some slope to the left so a shot landing over there could get a nice kick onto the green.

3-1 3-2

#4 (342 yard par 4):

The 4th is the shortest par 4 on the course. The fairway cannot be seen from the tee because of the elevation change. It looked like there was trouble left so I bailed out to the right. However, if you look at the satellite or my picture from the green looking back you will see that there is plenty of space off the tee. The fairway actually is generous for such a short hole! The approach plays into a green with a small, lower tier at the front of it. It should be an opportunity for a par or birdie!

4-1 4-2

#5 (408 yard par 4):

The 5th is my least favorite hole on the front nine. The tee marker says that the fairway runs out into a hazard at 280 yards. I was a bit of a hurry with someone playing right behind me so I didn’t look at my GPS. That was a mistake because the fairway angles to the left and the right side actually runs out about 250 yards. The fairway is narrow and falls off on both sides so hitting it requires a good shot and a nice bounce. To do over again, I would have laid up off the tee. From the fairway it is a semi-blind shot and a forced carry to get to the green. Make sure to miss to the right of the green. You can get some bad bounces on this hole!

5-1 5-2

#6 (183 yard par 3):

The 6th is a downhill par 3 that has a fairly large green. It played about a club less so hitting the green wasn’t the most difficult task. There is some slope to the left which can kick shots towards the green too. Once on the green then it becomes a much tougher hole. There are plenty of ridges to negotiate on long putts!

6-1

#7 (524 yard par 5):

The 7th is the first of the four par 5’s and it is a chance for a good score. The fairway runs out around 300 yards into a creek so the longer hitters will probably need to layup, especially from the elevated tee. There are some fairway bunkers to the right of fairway which are hidden from view. I actually missed it to the right of them and had plenty room to find my ball. The rest of the hole plays over the creek and uphill to the green. It could be reached in two because there is fairway short of the green so a lower trajectory shot can up onto it. Like so many of the greens here, there is plenty of contour.

7-1 7-2

#8 (423 yard par 4):

The 8th is another par 4 that someone has to watch out for! The green is pretty much straight ahead, but the fairway angles to the left along the creek. There is some left to right slope and a bunker to the right so erring left is better. This is another fairway that runs out, about 290 yards. The approach should play through some trees to a severe green guarded by the creek on the left. There is a ridge towards the back third of the green that causes shots to go almost sideways towards the back left corner. I played a good seven feet of break on my long putt.

8-1 8-2 8-3

#9 (546 yard par 5):

The 9th is the longest par 5 on the course but it could be reachable for the longer hitters. There is some slope from right to left all the way up to the green, so favoring the right side is a good strategy. There are some cross bunkers short of the green and if someone can carry those in two then it could be a chance for an up and down birdie. The left side of the green falls off so I wouldn’t mess with it.

9-1 9-2

#10 (446 yard par 4):

The 10th is the longest par 4 on the course and it another intimidating looking tee shot. However, the left side opens up because the 17th is off to the left. The biggest challenge was the distance, especially since my tee shot landed into an upslope. The uphill lie for my approach made it tough to flight on the ball with a long club. There is a chipping area to the right of the green which shouldn’t be a bad spot to play from with a pin towards the left side. Make sure not to hit it right of the cart path because of some thick vegetation.

10-1 10-2

#11 (405 yard par 4):

The 11th starts a stretch of some tree lined tee shots. The green is straight ahead, but to get there it will take a great drive. Or maybe a great second drive, like me! The fairway is narrow, it falls off on both sides, and there are some bunkers on the right that pinch it ~270 yards. If someone can navigate the tee shot successfully, then the approach is uphill into a green with a small bowl in the front right section.

11-1 11-2

#12 (202 yard par 3):

The 12th is a long par 3 that plays downhill. I played a club less and that was the correct distance to the middle of the green. The flag was on a back shelf when I played which was a very difficult. Don’t land a shot over the back of the green because it falls off into the woods.

12-1 12-2

#13 (410 yard par 4):

The 13th starts the stretch of some target golf holes. It is another fairway that runs out around 300 yards so a layup club could be a good choice. If missing the fairway, there is a bank out to the right which could yield some good kicks. The second shot is played over a ravine to the green. Short and right of the green allows a chance to chip the ball, but it will be from below green level. Someone playing from that bank is going to have to make a decision about how aggressive they want to be.

13-1 13-2

#14 (150 yard par 3):

The 14th is ranked as the easiest hole on the course. It should be a mid or short iron for most which is all carry back over the ravine. From the tee I had a general idea that the green sloped from back to front. What I didn’t know is that the there are a bunch of ridges and bumps in it. The flag was on a tiny back tier, my putt hit a ridge that pushed it sideways, and it rolled 20 feet in another direction. It seemed like the designer tried too hard to make the hole tougher with the goofy green complex.

14-1 14-2

#15 (530 yard par 5):

The 15th is one of the worst designed holes that I’ve ever played. I don’t know any other way to say it! The landing area is blind, but there is a lot of fairway out there assuming that someone can avoid two bunkers that are going to be in a popular landing spot. I normally carry it 240 yards and I think I just cleared them (~265) from the elevated tee. I had 250 yards into the green and decided that going for it in two was the best play because of a big tree in the layup area. Someone laying up is going to have to clear a hazard but then the tree is in play. If laying up past the tree, then that leaves a distance where a wedge won’t spin well so I decided just to blast it up by the green. The green has multiple mounds in it which I think bring an element of luck into play. I have no idea how to play this hole if laying up!

15-1 15-2 15-3

#16 (430 yard par 4):

Make sure you know the high side of the hole when playing the 16th. It is a long par 4 that slides to the right with slope from left to right. The slope influences the drive and second shot. Any shot to the right could kick out of play. A good line off the tee is those fairway bunkers to the left (assuming that they cannot be reached). The approach can be semi-blind if the tee shot isn’t long enough or far enough left. That could be a problem because it is another forced carry over a creek short of the green.

16-1 16-2

#17 (502 yard par 5):

The 17th is the shortest par 5 on the course and it could be reached in two even though it goes uphill to the green. The tee shot plays downhill to a wide fairway with some right to left slope. The biggest thing to know about the hole is that there is a pond which could be right in the layup area. I felt forced to hit more club than normal on my layup to make sure that I got it over the pond. An out of position drive could ruin the chances of getting it over the pond in two.

17-1 17-2

#18 (426 yard par 4):

The 18th is a pretty good finishing hole in my opinion. It plays slightly uphill with nice views in all directions. A bunker ~250 yards narrows the fairway so some of the bigger hitters may choose to layup. On the approach I saw a bunker short of the green which I tried to avoid. Come to find out, that bunker isn’t greenside so it isn’t in play as much as it looked. That flag was in a bowl on the front right section of green.

18-1 18-2

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